Free agent outfielders the Blue Jays should consider

J.D. Martinez improved his free agent stock by helping drive the Arizona Diamondbacks to the playoffs. (AP)

In October, baseball is at its most exciting as teams battle for a World Series title, pushing their best pitchers to the limit and adapting their tactics to win-at-all-costs mode.

However, for the majority of teams this is a less exciting time of spreadsheeting, forecasting, and contingency planning for the offseason. This is the bucket the Toronto Blue Jays fall into, and one of their primary focuses in the month to come will be figuring out how best to reshape their outfield.

Jose Bautista is almost certainly gone, and the Steve Pearce/Ezequiel Carrera platoon is far from ideal offensively and poor on the defensive side. Kevin Pillar has great range, but he would have been better off if he had someone flanking him. Perhaps Teoscar Hernandez will stand by him on one side – though that’s far from guaranteed despite his hot September. At the very least this club needs another starting outfielder.

One way to accomplish this goal is in free agency. Should the Blue Jays maintain their payroll in the $160 million range like they did this year, there won’t be buckets of money to spend, but probably enough to make one big splash should they choose to. Here are a couple ways they could go if they’re looking to throw some money at the outfield holes:

The Biggest Name: J.D. Martinez

Age: 30
Position(s): Left or Right Field
Hits: Right
Throws: Right
2017 stats: .303/.376/.690, 45 HR, 104 RBI, 3.8 WAR in 489 PA

How it works: The Blue Jays scored the fewest runs in the American League last season and Martinez is the best bat available. Those two facts alone seem to make for a fit.

It’s not that simple though. For one, the Blue Jays are unlikely to flex the type of financial muscle required to win the Martinez bidding war. Another factor is the direction Toronto is looking to go from a position-player perspective. On multiple occasions general manager Ross Atkins has talked about getting more athletic, and adding the market’s top thumper doesn’t exactly do that.

Martinez is well below-average defensively and has no speed to speak of. His addition would undoubtedly improve the Blue Jays, but it wouldn’t help bring about the stylistic change they are looking for. Whether that should really be important to the front office or not is up for debate, but they’ve certainly paid a great deal of lip service to it.

The Ideal Fit: Lorenzo Cain

Age: 31
Position(s): Left, Right, or Centre Field
Hits: Right
Throws: Right
2017 stats: .300/.363/.440, 16 HR, 49 RBI, 26 SB, 4.1 WAR in 645 PA

How it works: Although the Blue Jays already have a centre fielder in Pillar, combining him with Cain would create the foundation for a strong defensive outfield – something the Blue Jays haven’t had in years. Flyball pitchers like Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ and Roberto Osuna would certainly be thankful.

Offensively speaking, Cain would add a handy dash of speed and could serve as a leadoff hitter in front of Josh Donaldson. Last year, he cut down on his strikeouts significantly and profiles as the kind of speed-and-contact line driver hitter the Blue Jays have lacked of late.

The issue for Cain is twofold. The first is that while he’s played in the corners before, he may be more inclined to sign with a suitor who promises him full-time work in centre. The other issue is the financial commitment he’ll command, which could be both too long and too rich for the Blue Jays’ tastes.

The Underrated Option: Jarrod Dyson

Age: 33
Position(s): Left, Right, or Centre Field
Hits: Left
Throws: Right
2017 stats: .251/.324/.350, 5 HR, 30 RBI, 28 SB, 2.1 WAR in 390 PA

How it works: There’s no doubt that Dyson has his warts. He’s a little older, he has no power to speak of, he doesn’t hit lefties well, and he’s coming off sports hernia surgery. That there is a laundry list of flaws.

However, the speedster also has impressive strengths, namely his explosive speed and excellent defensive work. Dyson would fit best if he had a platoon partner, but even on his days off he could be dynamic as a pinch runner or defensive replacement – making him useful day-in and day-out. His batting lines aren’t going to wow anyone but he gets on base enough to utilize his wheels to help put runs on the board.

The overall package has been surprisingly valuable over the years despite the fact Dyson has rarely been an everyday player. Over the last five years, his WAR of 12.5 is 35th among MLB outfielders, between the better-known Curtis Granderson and Ender Inciarte. He’s no star, but he deserves to be a starter, and he could be had for a reasonable price.

Perhaps it’s apropos of nothing, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons is also known to have a love for Dyson, bordering on man crush territory from their time together in Kansas City.

The Uninspiring but Plausible Option: Jon Jay

Age: 32
Position(s): Left, Right, or Centre Field
Hits: Left
Throws: Left
2017 stats: .296/.374/.375, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 6 SB, 1.6 WAR in 433 PA

How it works: No one would be over the moon about a Jay signing, but there aren’t many holes in his game and it’s not hard to see the fit. The 32-year-old would add a left-handed bat with on-base ability and sturdy play in the outfield corners.

Although Jay isn’t a base stealer, he’s an above-average runner, a rare attribute on the current Blue Jays squad. What he lacks in flash he makes up for in versatility and steadiness.

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